Japan Memories #9: Hakone Tozan and Owakudani

Travel Date : 27th March (Tue)

The hell valley is called “Owakudani”- 大涌谷 and was formed before Christ, as a result of 2 major explosive volcanic eruptions about 180,000 and 49,000-60,000 years ago. The scenic Lake Ashi (Ashinoko) is a crater lake created by a phreatic (steam and minerals) eruption 3000 yeas ago and Mt. Hakone is still an ‘active’ volcano now, having last erupted 800 years ago.

More Info: How to travel between Hakone and Tokyo

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Exploring Hakone

More Info: Hakone Tozan Bus Guide

Cat:

The Tozan Train ride up to Gora was interesting as the driver switched from front to back at each stop to go up the mountain. We made at dash at the second stop because we thought we were at the back and wanted to switch to the front for a better view. Later, we found it was unnecessary since direction kept changing.

Vin:

Yay, that was really funny as we quickly alighted at the deserted second stop and ran towards the other end of the train (the three train compartments cannot be accessed from the inside) Since there was nobody else alighting/boarding the train, the station master has already blown the whistle to signal the train captain that they were cleared to go. Fortunately, the train captain saw us and waited for us. It was kinda embarrassing! We enjoyed the ride a lot.

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Moving higher and higher up Mt. Hakone

Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani

Cat:

I was worried about the ropeway (cable car) initially due to my slight fear of heights but it was rather stable and moved slowly so I didn’t experience height phobia. The underneath was also covered so I wouldn’t have to see the bottom and feel I’m way too high. Very thoughtful of them.

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As the cable car moved over the Owakudani (hell valley), we caught sight of the yellowish grounds with the strong sulphur smells and steam. It was my first close-up view of a volcano. Pretty impressive with the steam and sulphur.

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 Arrival on Owakudani 

The smells of sulphur (like rotten eggs) filled the air as we climbed the steps to reach the hot spring site. It was cold and windy up so high in the mountains and there was a bit of walking and climbing to do while looking around at the sulphur vents and small springs. The view of the landscape below with the houses so small was spectacular.

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Many people queued for the black eggs (Kuro-tamago) and we bought a packet too at a cost of 500 yen for 6 eggs.The eggs smell slightly sulphuric and they believe that eating these eggs increase longevity. Eating one egg is said to add seven years to your life.

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We didn’t eat them on the spot but brought them to the pier, sitting on an outdoor bench to wait for our Lake Ashi cruise. I was shivering while eating due to the icy cold wind blowing at me.

Bus to Togendai

Cat:

We took the bus to Togendai as that part of the Hakone Ropeway after leaving Owakudani is under renovation. The bus came and while chasing after Vin, I heard people shouting behind me. Turning back, I saw my handphone on the floor! It was scratched! Luckily, it still worked fine. Thanks to the Japanese people for alerting me or I would have lost my precious phone! Later on, we boarded the cruise ship on Lake Ashi.

Vin:

I thought the bus was about to leave so we rushed to it, knowing how punctual Japanese are. Later, I realised there was still time before it departed.

Boat Across Lake Ashi

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 Cat: 

We boarded the ‘Pleasure Boat’ and took it across Lake Ashi in a 30 minutes boat ride. We alighted at Hakone-machi to visit the cedar trees. Along the way, we tried to see Mt. Fuji over the water as it was shown in the brochure. Alas, it was totally covered with clouds. I do not think this picture is possible! It must be photoshopped!

Vin:

Agreed! Even if Mt. Fuji was visible, it wouldn’t be so huge from here!

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The Torii Gate in the waters…There’s a shrine over there.
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Windy and so cold we had to wear gloves. The misty view was nice but not able to see Mt. Fuji

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Our Planned Itinerary:

(Morning to Afternoon)

  • Walk to Odawara Station
  • Take the Hakone Tozan Railway from Odawara Station to Gora (45 min) (interval of 10 ~ 15 min)
  • Take Cable Car to Sounzan (9 min) (interval of 20 min)
  • Board Ropeway to Togendai (was under repair and took substitute bus instead)
  • Take Pleasure Boat across Lake Ashi. Alight at Hakone-machi.

(This entry is from our Travel Scrapbook of Japan in 2007)

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